Return of the Dinner Party
Let's celebrate The Return of the Dinner Party. Tips for planning and hosting your next great dinner party as we once again look to spending time together indoors.
After a one-and-a-half-year hiatus from hosting even the most informal of gatherings, putting together a full dinner felt as familiar as it did new.
What we learned: By the time everyone had a drink in hand and food on their plate we realized that, just like riding a bike, keeping each others’ company is an inherent skill.
While we might be out of practice, it is not something we’ve lost.
What helped: This week, we’re sharing the lessons we learned and the tips we picked up on our journey to return to the dinner party.
May your next dinner party be a success.
Plan ahead. Make ahead.
Advance planning and preparations are key.
- Look for recipes that can be made in advance. We served Hot and Sour Soup, Corn and Leek Dumplings, and Milk Tea Panna Cotta. These recipes are designed to be made on-the-spot or easily prepped ahead of time. On the day-of, only finishing touches were needed. Heating the soup and adding garnish. Frying the dumplings. Warming the tapioca before topping off the panna cotta. Stackware’s easy refrigerator storage capabilities really came through here, as the soup went from stove to fridge, back to the stove to heat, and then directly to the table to serve.
- Set the table early. It makes the space look complete and inviting, even if you end up running a few minutes behind.
- Prep a playlist. This is our go-to for dinners right now. Consider making it collaborative so your guests can add their favorite tunes.
- Light a candle. Set the mood and add some elegance to your space with a candle or two. We love Lohn’s collection and used their scents at our dinner party.
- Make a checklist. Don’t judge, but on the day of it felt like we had a million things to do. Relying on a checklist took the stress out of bringing the evening together and ensured we didn’t forget any of the details.
Multi-functionality will save you.
Rely on as many multifunctional products as possible – it will keep things simple, reduce your workload, and leave more time for enjoying the night.
- Furniture that transitions from table to seating. We especially love Sundays Field Stool – it is the perfect piece to work as a side table for serving, and extra seat at the table when additional guests arrive, and when grouped together, a new dining area.
- Cook then serve in the same vessel. This is where Stackware shines. Each piece can go from the stovetop directly to the table to serve (and then into the dishwasher for easy cleaning). Save time and save the extra serving dish – one vessel takes care of it all.
- Double-duty ingredients. At our dinner, we relied on Acid League’s vinegars to bring added flavor to both a dipping sauce for our dumplings and a shrub for our cocktails. The flavors came together in an unexpected and fun way – and it was helpful to have a single ingredient take on work for two entirely separate dishes.
A Memorable Menu: Get inspired. Tell a story.
It has not always been easy to find the motivation to cook – let alone cook for a party – throughout the pandemic. When started developing the culinary creations for our dinner party, the general feeling of apathy that’s been omni-present over the pandemic times unfortunately followed. Our solution? Look for inspiration, then set a theme.
We miss travelling, so the theme for our menu came from one of the places we used to frequent but have not been able to visit since early 2020: Shanghai (where our beloved manufacturer for Stackware is located). We took inspiration from street-food, snacks, and the way we shared food in Shanghai to create the menu for the evening.
A destination that will resonate with your guests can be one way to transport the party to a new location (especially as real-life travel remains challenging) while offering an opportunity to reminisce about past adventures and perhaps plan something new together.
If a far-away destination-inspired night doesn’t get you excited, keep things local. Let your local, seasonal ingredients steer the night, and set your menu around the dishes you can create using foods that are closer to home. Perhaps this will inspire you to try a new frontier and reignite your creative spark in the kitchen.
Simplify (as much as possible).
- Stick with a signature to cut out extra work. We made one signature cocktail and offered our favourite sparkling water from Lark. Both were easy to prepare and were served in the same glassware.
- Self-serve. If you want to offer more options, make them self-serve. Set out the night’s wine options. Leave the glasses on the counter. Make it easy for your guests to DIY so that you’re not playing bartender all evening.
- Easy clean up. Prepping food largely in advance should ensure your kitchen is already (reasonably) clean when the night starts. But to really save yourself the stress at the end of the night, also ensure your dishwasher or sink are empty and ready for dishes, and stick to easy-to-wash items that night. Not only does Stackware nest neatly in the sink, in case you need to hide it there before guests arrive, it’s also dishwasher-safe for hands-off cleaning.
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